Who is Li Yang, the Asian spa founder who joined Trump’s MAGA movement?
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Trump Tourism: Access for Sale
The Miami Herald is investigating how U.S. President Donald J. Trump has become a favorite target of a little-known Chinese industry peddling access to the rich and powerful. At the center of this “Trump Tourism” is Cindy Yang, a former Asian day spa owner, who sold access to Mar-a-Lago and the White House, raising concerns about national security. Read more:
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Feds are investigating possible Chinese spying at Mar-a-Lago and Cindy Yang, sources say
Trump Tourism: How Charlottesville enabled Cindy Yang to market Mar-a-Lago in China
Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted
Democrats in Congress are asking the FBI to investigate Florida massage parlor operator Li “Cindy” Yang after the Miami Herald and others reported on Yang’s access to President Donald Trump and work to get Chinese business executives access to political fundraisers.
In a letter sent on Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, Democrats leading the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees called for criminal and counterintelligence investigations into “credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities by Ms. Yang.”
Yang, who founded a string of South Florida Asian day spas linked to sexual services, arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 Republican fundraiser for Trump at a New York restaurant as part of her work with the National Committee of Asian American Republicans. Yang opened — but had since sold — the massage parlor that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly visited on the day of the AFC Championship Game. The business was under surveillance, and he and several other men were charged.
Yang has attracted attention due to her social media posts showing her in close proximity to President Trump, including at a Super Bowl party at a Trump golf club in West Palm Beach. She has also attended events at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Palm Beach club.
She is part of a network of organizations pushing for Taiwan to return to Chinese control and that fall under the oversight of the Chinese government.
“If true, these allegations raise serious counterintelligence concerns,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. “China has frequently used non-traditional intelligence collectors and businesspersons to compromise targets. Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities could also permit adversary governments or their agents to access these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes.”
Yang has not been charged with any crimes related to her massage parlor operation or connections to Chinese officials. She has stopped returning phone calls from the Herald.
The letter asks for the FBI to conduct investigations related to human trafficking allegations along with any unlawful foreign lobbying or campaign finance activities. The Intelligence and Judiciary leaders also want to know if any state, federal or local law enforcement agencies were aware of Yang’s activities before recent press reports, what level of access Yang or her associates had with the White House and senior White House officials, whether the White House vetted any donors or attendees at Mar-a-Lago parties to make sure that illegal foreign campaign cash was not being accepted and whether Yang’s activities posed any specific counterintelligence risks.
The letter, sent on Friday, asks for a response by Thursday of this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called for an FBI investigation on Monday.
“The facts in this situation are very concerning, and we urge Director Wray to adhere to the joint bicameral requests of the Democratic Senate ranking members and Democratic House chairmen and start an investigation,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
Yang’s attorney said calls for an investigation by Democrats are motivated by politics.
“We have seen the Democratic partisan letter and allegations,” attorney Evan W. Turk said in a statement. “Our firm will represent our client, and her interests as an American. This seems to be another politically driven fishing expedition. We will be addressing these matters when appropriate.”
South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who sits on the House committee responsible for overseeing the nation’s national security agencies, also expressed a desire to investigate Yang’s activities.
“These revelations raise very serious, disturbing concerns,” Wasserman Schultz said last week. “If she has significant ties to the Chinese government, that makes it even more disturbing. This is a situation that is clearly unethical. It is very troubling, it raises all kinds of questions and cries out for a deeper investigation.”
Miami Herald staff writers Nicholas Nehamas, Sarah Blaskey and Caitlin Ostroff of McClatchy D.C. contributed to this report.